Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2018: The “Blotto From A Sleepless Night Fuming About Nobody Stopping That Puppy From Being Stuffed In The United Overhead Luggage Bin” Edition

Good Morning, United!

Where’s that whimpering sound coming from?

Grrrrrrr.

1 Don’t make America stupid, ABC. The new ABC legal drama “For The People” premiered last night, and lost me forever. I can’t trust the writers. In the final moments of the episode, a veteran female defense lawyer was consoling a young lawyer who was upset after losing a case. The older lawyer evoked the memory of a 1951 rookie for the New York Giants, who went hitless in his first Major League games and was devastated. But his manager put him in the line-up again, and he hit a home run in his first at bat, and never stopped hitting.

“Ah,” said the young lawyer, “Willie Mays. The greatest player who ever lived.” The older lawyer nodded sagely.

By no measure was Willie Mays the greatest baseball player. Is this racial politics by series creator Shonda Rhimes? I assume so: there is no other plausible explanation. The odds of two randomly selected baseball fans asserting that Mays was the greatest baseball player would only be more than miniscule if anyone who knows baseball believed that. Willie was the greatest centerfielder of all time, the greatest African-American player of all time, quite possibly the most charismatic and entertaining player to watch of all time, and very possibly the second most gifted baseball player of all time. But he wasn’t the greatest. The best player by every measure, statistical, modern analytics, WAR, JAWS, OPS, contemporary reports and common sense was, of course, Babe Ruth. He was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a great pitcher before that, and no athlete in any sport ever dominated it like Babe did in the Twenties.

Now, any individual can hold an eccentric opinion that Willie was better. But that was not how the assertion was presented. It was presented as an accepted fact that two random baseball fans agreed upon. This is irresponsible misrepresentation. I was trying to think of an equivalent: I think it’s like a TV show having someone quote the Declaration of Independence, and a listener then  say, “Thomas Jefferson. Our greatest President!” as the other individual nods sagely.

2. Four Regans, or, if you prefer, Linda Blair Heads.This is the new Ethics Alarms graphic for unethical media spin. The number of Regans can range from one to four, with four Regans signifying “spinning so furiously her head might fall off.” (If you don’t get the reference, you are seriously deficient in cultural literacy.) The four Regans go to the polar news media spinning yesterday’s special election in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb appears to have narrowly won a seat in a Republican stronghold, though the race is still too close to call. Continue reading

Legal Ethics Train Wreck on “The Good Wife”

Oh, Alicia, Alicia...what have they done to you?

The CBS legal drama “The Good Wife” continues to show the seamy side of big firm legal practice, with heroine Alicia Florrick’s firm, Lockhart, Gardner and Bond, its adversaries, and even Good Alicia herself violating legal ethics rules with abandon, and at an accelerating rate, based on recent episodes. There is nothing wrong with this as entertainment, as long as the Rules themselves are not being misrepresented (they aren’t), the misconduct isn’t being presented as ethical (it isn’t, though it is sometimes hard to tell), and viewers don’t get the idea that this is how most law firms behave. Unfortunately, like most legal shows, “The Good Wife” fails in this important realm. I work with many large law firms, and they are all very aware on the ethical lines, bold or fuzzy, that they must not cross, and take their obligations seriously.

The most recent episode of “The Good Wife,” entitled “Getting Off” included a full-fledged ethics train wreck sparked by the firm’s habitually unethical adversary, the fecund Patti Nyholm. In the middle of representing the defendant hospital in a lawsuit brought by a Lockhart, Gardner and Bond, Nyholm is fired by her firm and removed from the case. With a twinkle in her eye, she approaches none other than the Lockhart firm to represent her in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against her former firm for discrimination and wrongful termination, on the theory that it fired her because she was pregnant. Continue reading